Making the decision to move out of your rented property and into another is not one you should take lightly.
There's so much to consider, from finding a new home in a suitable location to working out your priorities regarding garden space, number of bathrooms and other amenities.
And that's all without mentioning your need to weigh up the financial side of such a move, and a massive factor in that is your successful retrieval of the security deposit put down on the previous property. Recent government research shows that the number of households in the UK's private rented sector increased by 63% between 2007 and 2017.
As the proportion of renters compared to owners continues to grow, it stands to reason that a more significant number of the population will lose out on some, or potentially all, of their security deposits if they fail to take precautions against it.
This could have a hugely detrimental effect when it comes to accessing the funds to put down a deposit on your next rental property. Nobody wants to be in that position, so we've put together this handy guide to provide advice on the common reasons for deposit deductions and, more importantly, what you can do to improve your chances of receiving your money back in full.
Why might you lose your deposit?
Landlords are most likely to withhold all or part of your deposit when they feel the property needs work to restore it to its state when you started your tenancy. Most frequently, they will make deductions if cleaning is required – whether to the floors, walls, kitchens or bathrooms.
Alternatively, you could be charged for any damages to furniture, fixtures or fittings. Also, if the landlord feels some redecoration is required, above and beyond what may be considered "wear & tear", they may also withhold part of your deposit. Other factors that may affect the return of your deposit are any missing items, outstanding rent, or bill payments, so how can you ensure this fate does not befall you? Our top tips can provide the answer.
The deep clean
One of the most common reasons landlords deduct from deposits is to clean the property. The easiest way to mitigate this issue is to review the property thoroughly before leaving. Still, problems can arise as the cleanliness of any room can be very subjective – one person's spotless is another person's shabby.
As it's so subjective, it's best to do too much rather than not enough! A deep, exhaustive clean will help avoid disagreements with your landlord or letting agent and increase your chances of receiving a positive reference to take forward to your next property.
If possible, don't leave your cleaning until the day you move out! Begin the preparation well in advance, perhaps by making a list of those areas that need the most attention. Unfortunately, these tend to be used more frequently, such as kitchens and bathrooms, so you may have to accept that these rooms will need tackling last. But you can make a start on less-visited rooms such as the spare bedroom or cupboard under the stairs.
When retrieving your deposit in full, it's worth keeping a keen eye on the less prominent features around the home. For example, your landlord may not take kindly to filthy kitchen drawers – even if the surfaces are spotless – while skirting boards, light switches, and windowsills are all worth your attention.
If you're looking to keep your move as hassle-free as possible, hiring a professional cleaner's services could help relieve much of the stress around regaining your deposit. Some tenancy agreements require a professional clean once your time is up, although the Tenant Fees Act means landlords and letting agents can no longer ask for this within contracts signed after 1st June 2019. You may decide that calling on outside help is too expensive, however, and the money saved may be put to better use on your next deposit.
Be careful not to focus solely on cleaning the property's interior. If your home has a garden, make sure you leave that as you found it – perhaps with a mown lawn, tidy flower beds and a swept patio. And, if you've kept pets, make sure you clean up after them.
As well as a deep clean, it's worth scouring your home for any damages from during your time there. Any wall scuffs, broken door hinges or wobbly chair legs can often prove a simple fix and fixing them can go a long way to ensuring you recoup all of your deposit.
So, give the walls a lick of paint, replace old lightbulbs and fill any holes in the walls and you'll have the place looking good as new! As with the cleaning process, you might consider hiring a professional to help you with these tasks, but they can prove costly, and you can often do the smaller jobs yourself.
Moving into a new home is incredibly exciting, and we understand that sometimes the last thing on your mind when you first get the keys is to take a good look around and make a checklist of any damaged or dirty areas. But it will be more than worthwhile in the long run, especially when trying to get your deposit back.
In England, agents and landlords can no longer charge for an inventory under the Tenant Fees Act. It's essential to make sure you and your landlord or letting agent agree on any pre-existing damages in writing, so you can be confident you won't be responsible for any damage from before you moved to the property
An inventory is just one of the essential tasks to help you retrieve your full deposit at the end of your tenancy. Here are a few others:
When you first move in, it's worth making your way through the home and taking photographs and adding these to the inventory so you have an accurate record of the state of the property when you arrived. That way, when you move out, you'll have irrefutable evidence to show your landlord, and you can resolve any disputes quickly.
We all want to make the home feel like our own space, even if it is a rental, but be careful before making any changes to your property. Read your lease carefully and work out your landlord's policy when it comes to alterations – some will allow you to go as far as redecorating, while others will want you to maintain the status quo.
Tenancy liability insurance was designed to cover accidental damage to your landlord's items throughout a tenancy – which can protect tenants against deposit deductions.
We understand that accidents happen, and sometimes things can get broken by mistake. By taking out Tenancy liability insurance, you'll be covered for accidentally damaging your landlord's furniture, fixtures and fittings. Without this insurance, you will have to pay for the cost of any repair work from your own funds, or it likely would come out of your deposit when you leave.
Taking out tenants content insurance can also be hugely beneficial for your belongings. Your landlord is not responsible for any damage to your personal property. Forking out to get anything fixed could affect your ability to put down a deposit the next time you decide to move.
Communication is key
The crucial concept underpinning these points is maintaining an open and honest relationship with your landlord or letting agent.
To uphold your end of the relationship, you must pay your rent and bills on time, keep to the pre-agreed schedule and speak immediately to your landlord or agent about any issue or problem. So, whether it be your wish to make changes, alerting them to faulty appliances or discussing the terms of your agreement, it’s crucial to remain in communication and have a good working relationship with your agent or landlord. That way, you both know where you stand and can find a solution swiftly and simply. Most good landlords want to know if there's a problem so they can fix it immediately. Allowing an issue to continue without reporting it, i.e. a leaky sink, may result in more damage in the long run and more expense to put it right, so be sure to notify as soon as an issue occurs.